As much as I’m embarrassed to write this, “faking it” in ministry is so easy.
For example, I can pastor a church without praying very much.
I can preach pretty good sermons without actually living those sermons.
I can be hailed as a gifted young leader and pastor, yet I can be defensive, irritable, and aloof when it comes to my relationship with my wife and kids.
The law and the prophets and Jesus himself decried hypocrisy, and now as a vocational minister, I can see how apt those critiques are for religious people, especially religious leaders like me!
If the divide between one’s inner and outer life is endemic for those tasked to pastor and lead churches, I can only imagine how difficult it also must be for the parishioners in churches as well.
How do we go beyond a superficial spirituality and address every area of our lives?
As simple as it may sound—the answer is discipleship.
Discipleship, though, must go beyond behavioral changes; it must address every facet of our human experience.
In other words, following Jesus must involve every area of our lives: the physical, the social, the intellectual, and, yes, even the emotional. All of these different areas of our lives must submit to the Lordship of Jesus, and we must invite Jesus to transform every part of who we are.
If we fail to address every area of our lives, we can become hypocrites—people who profess to be followers of Jesus yet the marks of healthy discipleship (love and holiness) are less apparent, especially in our private worlds.
At Emotionally Healthy Discipleship we often say, “It’s impossible to be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature.” We say this because in the modern church, we can often have a segmented discipleship that focuses on superficial changes without addressing underlying soul and emotional issues that every person needs to bring before Jesus.
Yes, I might appear to have extraordinary ministry gifts on the outside, but if I am someone with whom the vestiges of emotional immaturity remain unaddressed, then I can become an unhealthy model of what following Jesus really looks like.
The spiritual life has always been an invitation to something more, a deeper kind of life that affects every part of who we are, including our emotions. We need not look further than the Psalms to see how our emotional lives are essential parts of who we are that God can use in powerful ways.
My prayer is that the modern church will lean into the need for a deeper discipleship that affects all of who we are, including our emotions. My prayer is that we might model for our parishioners a way of following Jesus that submits our most challenging emotions— our fears, our anxieties, our anger, our sadness—before God and others in ways that might deeply transform us and the churches we lead.